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Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Which mesh router should you buy?

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi
(Image credit: Google)

Comparing Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi is a great place to start if you’re looking for one of the best mesh Wi-Fi systems around.

Google isn’t just a major force on the internet and how we use it but is also a big player in how people get connected to begin with. The company first introduced one of the earliest mainstream mesh Wi-Fi systems back in 2016, offering quick and convenient setup with app-based controls.

The original Google Wifi was one of our favorite mesh routers of 2016 but then in 2019, Google released a new mesh Wi-Fi package under the Nest brand name. The Google Nest Wifi mesh kit took things up a notch, improving upon the original in almost every way, including by adding smart features we wish more companies would adopt.

Still though, the original Google Wifi model didn’t disappear. Instead, Google updated it in 2020 by giving it a lower price while retaining the hardware and performance we loved in the original Google Wifi. Both Google Wifi and Nest Wifi are still being sold but the similarities in their hardware means that the only substantial difference is price.

This leaves shoppers looking for a mesh Wi-Fi system wondering which is better. For those comparing the original Google Wifi to the newer Nest WiFi, we’ve got the lowdown on which of these award-winning mesh networking kits could be best for you.

(Before you buy one, there is one problem with mesh routers that you need to read about).

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Specs

Google WifiNest Wifi
Price$99 (single), $199 (3 units)$169 (single), $269 (with 1 access point), $349 (2 access points)
Release date20162019
Wi-Fi spec802.11ac/Dual Band802.11ac/Dual Band
802.11ac TypeAC1200 MU-MIMOAC2200 (router)
Number of Antennas/Removable4/No4/No
Ports2x 1Gbps LAN, USB-C for power(Router) 2x 1Gbps LAN, power; (Extension) None
ProcessorQuad-core 710MHzQuad-core 1.4GHz
Memory/Storage512MB/4GB(Router) 1GB/4GB; (Extension) 768MB/512MB
Wi-Fi ChipQualcomm IPQ4019Qualcomm QCS 400
Dimensions4.1 x 4.1 x 2.7 inches(Router) 4.3 x 4.3 x 3.6 inches ; (Extension) 4.0 x 4.0 x 3.4 inches
Color optionsSnowMist, Sand, Snow

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Price and availability

On the Google Store, you can find Google Wifi listed for a very affordable $99 for single units and $199 for a trio of interchangeable units. If you need two or four or five points for your Google Wifi system, you'll need to add them individually.

The relaunch of Google Wifi in 2020 brought minor technical changes along with the lower starting price. The hardware was largely identical, but the power connector was changed from USB-C to a standard barrel connector, and the Google "G" logo was changed from a simple sticker on the device to a letter molded into the plastic of the housing.

The older models can still be found on Amazon, selling for different prices than the 2020 version sold directly by Google.

Google Wifi (2016 model)Google Wifi (2020 model)Nest Wifi
Single router$84 (opens in new tab)$99 (opens in new tab)$169 (opens in new tab)
2-packn/an/a$269 (opens in new tab) (1 router + 1 point)
3-pack$184 (opens in new tab)$199 (opens in new tab)$349 (opens in new tab) (1 router + 2 points)
Add-on units$78 (opens in new tab)$99 (opens in new tab)$149 (opens in new tab) (1 point)

The Nest Wifi, on the other hand, is sold as either a single router, or in packs of two or three, bundling a single router with one or two points, respectively. A single router sells for $169 alone, or $269 when bundled with a single Wifi point, or $349 for two points. Individual Wifi points can also be purchased for $149 each.

Google recommends adding no more than five points to a single network, for a total of six units (1 router + 5 points). According to Google: "Adding more may be detrimental to Wi-Fi performance."

Here's the best part. If you already own a Google Wifi unit and want to upgrade to the newer Nest Wifi, the older Google Wifi points will work with the newer Nest hardware, giving you additional expansion units for even more coverage area. The performance may not be as good on the older devices, but it's a simple way to upgrade for less.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Design

The biggest obvious change from 2016 to now is in the physical design. The original Google Wifi mesh system has a collection of interchangeable units called points, all identical and capable of connecting with each other to create a seamless mesh network. 

One Google Wifi point connects to your modem and serves as the central unit, while the rest act as your mesh extensions throughout the house — but it doesn't matter which one you choose to be the central unit.

Google WiFi

(Image credit: Google)

With a white plastic body, a cylindrical design and distinctive LED stripe around the center of each Wi-Fi point, the Google Wifi design manages to feel a little dated, even though it was introduced only 6 years ago.

Nest Wifi in Pink

(Image credit: Google)

The newer Nest Wifi updates the design of the mesh kit, retaining the cylindrical look but softening it with rounded corners, removing the stylized LED indicator stripe and adding color options beyond plain white.

The biggest design change Nest Wifi introduced is a shift away from interchangeable points to a system that uses a designated central router unit and designated mesh points throughout the house. The router and points differ slightly in both look and features and are not interchangeable the way the Google Wifi points are.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Features

The original Google Wifi offered plenty of advanced features for its time, with simple mesh networking and 802.11ac connectivity that was top-of-the-line when the system was introduced.

Ethernet Ports

(Image credit: Google)

Each Google Wifi point is equipped with a pair of Ethernet ports, letting you connect your cable modem to the central unit or attach other devices to the extended mesh network through the various points around the house.

But the real standout feature back in 2016 was the ease of setup. Using the Google Wifi App (since changed to the the Google Home app), you could set up each Google Wifi device simply by scanning a QR code on the base of the unit, with setup taking roughly five minutes per unit.

When it initially launched, the Google Wifi mesh kit was also notable for its early smart-home capabilities, which included IFTTT functionality.

When Google introduced Nest Wifi in 2020, it updated this feature set with a number of new functions.

Smart-home features were a major focus, as the Nest name might suggest. In addition to app-based network management, Nest Wifi works with the entire Nest family of products, plus major brands such as Philips Hue, Tile trackers, GE, TP-Link, and Kasa. From smart locks to smart lights and plugs, your whole house full of connected devices should be compatible with the Nest Wifi system.

But the biggest feature change to come with Nest Wifi was integrated smart-speaker technology, putting a Google Home smart speaker into every expansion point. It's a clever move on Google's part, offering a simple path to putting smart-speaker technology into multiple rooms of a home without requiring an extra device alongside a satellite mesh unit. (Check out the best Google Home speakers to see our picks for standalone smart speakers.)

Similar smart-speaker technology has been offered on other mesh products — the Netgear Orbi Voice came out a full year before the Nest Wifi and TP-Link announced an Alexa-equipped mesh system during CES 2021 — but only Google has thought to do so in its flagship mesh-networking equipment.

Google Nest WiFi Lifestyle

(Image credit: Google)

In addition to letting you control certain router features with voice commands, Nest Wifi also gives you the option of asking about the weather, playing music or controlling the various connected devices in your home. 

You can use the multiple Google Home-equipped Wifi points as an intercom system between rooms and even play music that follows you from room to room.

The only area where we failed to see the expected advancement was in Wi-Fi standards, with the Nest Wifi still using 802.11ac (retroactively renamed Wi-Fi 5) instead of the newer Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) protocol.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Performance

The biggest differences between the Google and Nest versions of Google's mesh system are in performance and range, with the newer Nest Wifi offering faster throughput and larger coverage areas across the board.

The Google Wifi offered maximum throughput of 464.4 Mbps, still fairly impressive for an affordable mesh Wi-Fi system. But the Nest Wifi stepped that up substantially, with a top throughput of 653.2Mbps. That even tops some of the Wi-Fi 6 models on our best mesh routers page.

The Nest Wifi also offers better range, translating into larger coverage areas with the same number of units. Where a single Google Wifi unit covered 1,500 square feet, the Nest Wifi router covers 2,200 square feet. Adding a second or third unit only increases expanded range further, as indicated in the chart below.

Google WifiNest Wifi
Single routerUp to 1500 sq ftUp to 2200 sq ft
2-packUp to 3000 sq ftUp to 3800 sq ft
3-packUp to 4500 sq ftUp to 5400 sq ft

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Security

Since the first Google Wifi was released, Google has built security features into its mesh Wi-Fi products.

The 2016 Google Wifi boasts an Infineon Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that encrypts network traffic and verifies firmware installations to protect the entire network at the router level. You can also pause the internet connection to one or all devices in the home.

But the Google Wifi lacks any built-in malware protections and doesn't offer any substantial parental controls, such as content filtering or deeper access controls.

The Nest Wifi, on the other hand, adds precisely the sort of features that the Google Wifi was missing. It keeps the TPM-based encryption, and upgrades to the WPA 3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security protocol, which later was added to the 2020 version of Google Wifi.

The Nest Wifi also gets some better parental controls. The ability to pause Wi-Fi access is enhanced with the ability to schedule internet time-outs or set routines to disconnect the kid's devices for scheduled events like homework or bedtime. Parents can also filter content by site, applying Google SafeSearch to block millions of inappropriate adult websites.

The best part? These parental controls can be accessed right from your smartphone or through Google Assistant — including the Google Home app built into the Nest Wifi points throughout the house.

Google Wifi vs. Nest Wifi: Which is best for you?

When you get right down to it, both the Google Wifi and Nest Wifi are highly capable mesh systems, with decent features and reasonable prices. But if you want the best mesh Wi-Fi kit you can get right now, the Nest Wifi is the clear winner.

The Nest Wifi offers a much more comprehensive feature set, including broader smart-home compatibility and powerful parental controls. The Nest offers better range and faster performance. And the inclusion of Google Home in every Nest Wifi point is a no-brainer for anyone looking to add a great smart speaker to one or more rooms in the house.

That said, the Google Wifi is still a smart choice for budget shoppers, and while the feature set isn't as rich, the performance is still quite good, especially if range is less of a concern. 

If you don't care about Google Home, or if you're already an Alexa household, then the lack of smart speaker in the Google Wifi isn't even making it to your pros/cons list.

The Nest Wifi is the latest and greatest, to be sure, but there's still plenty of reason to get Google Wifi.

Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom's Guide, where he led the site's TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.

  • Jymbob
    ... what??

    The parental controls are the same. WPA3 is available on everything except the obsolete OnHub. The changes are done in software, not hardware.

    Also you can hardwire the Non-nest points to give coverage beyond the range of a single WiFi point.

    The basic difference is: if you need CAT6 backhaul, get Google Wifi. If you don't, it's about whether you want to pay extra for a slightly optimised mesh and built in Google Assistant.
    Reply